I don’t believe in food diaries and as a nutritionist I get a lot of flack for that from colleagues. But I stand by my conviction. Food diaries, intended to help you stay honest about your eating habits by meticulously recording every morsel of food that passes your lips, can become a tool of rebellion and disappointment when days into your renewed efforts you begin to veer off course. Soon, every forbidden food that’s eaten is conveniently omitted, forgotten even by you. Instead, I suggest that my clients pre-plan their day, writing down what they will eat every day, before they are hungry.
Pre-planning your day means thinking ahead. Based on your schedule, where you will be at meal time, what you have in the fridge or what foods are available, you map out each days meals as you would a to-do list, to be checked off as you go along. If you know that you’ll have only a few minutes in the morning before rushing to a meeting, you can either plan to have 2 boiled eggs with some fruit or cherry tomatoes ready to go or you can grab oatmeal on the way in from your local take out. Or, if you see that you’ll have a particularly busy day coming up and know yourself to forget to eat until you’re ravenous, you can decide ahead of time that for lunch that day you’ll order a salad from your local salad shop or you’ll bring left over’s from the night before.
Waiting until you’re hungry to decide what you’ll eat is the first step to making a bad choice. Once you’re distracted with hunger pangs, are irritable with low blood sugar and need to eat pronto, your choices will likely tend to richer, more calorically dense options. Personally, I know that if I waited until I was hungry to ask myself what I wanted to eat, the answer would often be Chipotle! But I also know indulging in Mexican food with any regularity would work against my goals.
An added advantage to planning ahead is that it was the first step I took to eating more homemade foods.
Up until about two years ago, I relied on some key take out places for my daily green drink, lunch soups and salads. Thinking that I had “no time” to prepare some of these meals on my own, I was grateful to live and work in a city that readily offered up healthy options that helped me stay on track.
Then I added up the cost. I was spending $100 a week on green juices alone! I drank two $9 juices a day and with a tip, I was going through $20 daily on this one beverage! A quart of homemade green juice isn’t necessarily cheap at approximately $7 but it leads to a savings of $65 a week and only takes about 15 minutes to make beginning to end, including cleaning the juicer.
By mapping out my day and making a clear intention of juicing, I allocated time for it. Once I saw how readily I could make it happen simply by prioritizing it, I began to make time for other easy recipes in order to save money at lunchtime. The best part though, is that I eat mindfully and intentionally, rarely if ever eating food on the fly.
My clients report similar results. Planning ahead has allowed them to be up to 90% more compliant in following through on their eating goals rather than haphazardly choosing food when hungry only to reluctantly record it later in a food diary. That’s a significant number. Planning ahead helps them take their eating habits to another level, moving them closer to their health goals.
Two years into planning ahead, I am happy to say that I rarely if ever eat a meal outside my home, except in social situations. I know at the start of every day what I will eat for breakfast (eggs, miso soup or nutty protein bread with avocado or nut butter), lunch (Mediterranean tuna salad, Asian chicken salad or a homemade soup) and dinner (steamed vegetables with protein or soup). Not only has this habit nourished me with wholesome foods made with love and organic ingredients, it’s saved me hundreds of dollars over the years, money that I can use for more travel 🙂
This New Year, I encourage you to take a few minutes every night to plan your next day, not only with your to-do list but also your “to-eat” list. In this way, you will likely find yourself staying the course with your health goals and plans, helping you to make 2015 the year of a healthier you!
Wishing that this year brings you everything you wish for yourself!